Dynasty Tactics 2 PlayStation 2
Developed by Koei
Release Date: Out Now (Re-released on 11th March)
Price: £14.99 (Re-release price)
I've always been a fan of turn-based strategy games. I know the very idea of a turn-based game just doesn't do it for some people but I happen to appreciate the allowance for strategy that turn-based games have. For years, in my ignorance, I thought all the best turn-based strategy games were on the PC but over the years my eyes have been opened to games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, Disgaea, Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII etc., and it's fair to say that there are some really excellent turn-based games on many different formats. Koei have continually provided top quality strategy games for the PlayStation 2 and this review will look at one of their finest, Dynasty Tactics 2.
Now if you're a PlayStation 2 gamer you'll be asking 'Why is he reviewing a game that was released in 2003?' Well to be truthful I've really enjoyed the Koei games I've reviewed and when we asked Koei if it would be possible to look at Dynasty Tactics 2 they agreed to let us. This review is more appropriate than I first realised though. Both Dynasty Tactics and Dynasty Tactics 2 are to be re-released as budget titles (on the 25th February and 11th March respectively). It's just possible that you might be a fan of turn-based strategy games and were completely unaware of the Dynasty Tactics games so hopefully this review will draw your attention to the series.
As with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games, the Dynasty Tactics games are based upon the Chinese texts 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' (sometimes just called Three Kingdoms). In the Dynasty Tactics games however, the focus is squarely on combat. The battles play out like a board game in that pieces are moved one by one across the grid. The game offers four main campaigns where you can play as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Ce and Lu Bu. The campaigns are not exactly linear either which adds considerably to the replay value of the game. Outside of a battle you'll get to organise and move armies (Your units, which represent an army and not just a single character, gain experience through battles and the longer they survive the more experienced and more powerful they become) as well as spy on towns and carry out other actions that could aid you in achieving your goals. All of this is secondary to the battles though.
We reviewed Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII last year and if there was one area of the game that needed improving it had to be the battles as they weren't as good as they might have been. The battles in Dynasty Tactics 2 have no such problems though and they are thoroughly entertaining. What makes the battles so special is the way you can link your units together to pull off mighty combo moves. The special attacks in Dynasty Tactics are called Tactics. You can only use Tactics when your unit is in a certain position (usually denoted by a green coloured square on the grid). You can usually only use a Tactic once per battle as well so you have to be careful when you use them. These tactics can either be performed with a single unit or, preferably, combined with another unit for even greater damage with combo attacks. Some of these combo attacks can be huge and very destructive. When used correctly these Tactics abilities can really make a difference and swing the battle in your favour. Tactics are not always about inflicting damage on your opponents though. The morale of your units is a top priority and certain Tactics can increase the morale of other units. As your units gain more experience they will learn more advance tactics. Whilst it can prove a little tricky mastering how to use these Tactics effectively it's well worth it.
It's not just Tactics that make the battles enjoyable though. Siege weapons can be built as can defensive structures. This serves to add greater depth to the game. The nature of the terrain also has to be considered too which is very impressive. All too often it's easy to assume that console strategy games will be dumbed down compared to the games that are on the PC. Koei once again prove that this is not necessarily the case and a PlayStation 2 game can be just as deep and richly rewarding. If only this battle system could be implemented into the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games we would have a pretty amazing game to enjoy.
Despite being a turn-based game the graphics in Dynasty Tactics 2 are actually very good. On the battlefield your units still animate even though they are bound to the square there are on until you move them. Battlefields range from forest plains to fortified towns and they all look good. You'll notice that your units are oversized when compared to their surroundings. Your units are larger than the trees and building for instance but this is simply to make your units easier to see (in pretty much the same way as in games like Civilization III). The cutscenes look good too and help add atmosphere to the game. Having said that though the cutscenes that accompany most of the attacks can become rather repetitive but thankfully you can skip them if you want and this will have the added bonus of speeding up the battles. During a battle you can move the camera with the right control stick to survey the battlefield.
Dynasty Tactics 2 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The main cutscenes are subtitled as are the tutorial messages and conversations that take place during a scenario. Your objectives, conditions for defeat and special prizes are all listed in text as are the amount of days you have left. Most of the text within the game is placed on overlays that make the white text very easy to read which is excellent. The objectives and other details can be recalled at any time during a battle which again is superb and it means if you come back to a battle after a long absence you'll always know what to do. There are attacks that trigger cutscenes and these aren't subtitled. Only a few words are usually said though and it doesn't add anything to the games story so there's no real problem. Any important conversations that occur during a battle are subtitled though.
Whilst I wouldn't quite put Dynasty Tactics 2 in the same bracket as Disgaea or the recently released Phantom Brave (although they could be more appealing if you prefer a historical flavour to your strategy games as opposed to a fantasy one) it's still a great game that all strategy fans should own. The Tactics system can seem a little strange at first and it does take a while to fully appreciate but thankfully the tutorials (which are in text) do explain how the system works and they prevent the learning curve from becoming too steep. If you're a fan of turn-based strategy games and haven't yet experienced the Dynasty Tactics series you would be well advised to pick up a copy of these games when they are shortly re-released especially as online stores are listing Dynasty Tactics and Dynasty Tactics 2 for just £14.99.
Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
Dynasty Tactics 2 is a great example of how good a strategy game can be on the PlayStation 2. It's quite unlike any other game on the console (apart from Dynasty Tactics of course) and is a must for strategy fans.
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
No problems at all for deaf gamers. The comments made during the attack cutscenes are not subtitled but this doesn't spoil anything.